RGB verses CMYK Colours

For the colour printing of your digital files, you need to provide the graphics and images in the right colour mode. Most of the software programmes allow you to work on RGB colour mode or CMYK colour. RGB colours or Red-Green-Blue colours are known as the primary colours of the light. This colour combination can be seen on your television or computer monitors. Digital cameras and scanners also produce images with Red-Green-Blue colour combinations. Red-Green-Blue colour mode ought to be used while taking photos that need to be seen on the monitor, or by emails or CD.

All colours of the light spectrum are formed from the primary colours, but monitors can display only limited colour range from the spectrum able to be seen. Light is emitted from the monitors, and the printing ink recognises only a particular wavelength of colours. All three primary colours are combined together to produce white. If all three primary colours are missing, then the light will appear as black. By combining various intensities of RGB colours, each mixture produces differing colours. The monitor of a television or a computer consists of small units called pixels. Every pixel contains three units of light, and each unit represents red, green and blue.

You can’t actually see the individual pixels with the naked eye because they are too small. But each pixel is created by applying correct values of RGB, as without the proper values of the colour units, you will not see anything on the monitor. The values of RGB colours are calculated mainly by three methods. The first method is to set them with the help of different numeric values. The numeric values used for this purpose are the values from 0 to 255, and this is the easiest method of the three.

The second method is the use of hexadecimal notations. This method is mainly used for HTML and other languages of the computer. These notations follow a logical pattern. The hexadecimal notation uses six characters, and these characters are divided into three. The first pair represents the red, the second pair green and the third pair as blue. Each pair is represented by a hexadecimal number (0-9) and the letters (A-F). The third method is the percentage in which a certain percentage represents each colour. The programme translates these percentages into suitable values ranges from 0-255.

CMYK colours or Cyan-Magenta-Yellow colours are subtractive colours, whereas RGB colours are additive colours. Additive colours refer to light, whereas subtractive colours refer to inks, paint or pigment. CMYK mode is used for printing as all kind of printers are using subtractive colours to result in differing colours. When three additive colours are combined, the combination will produce white colour. But when three subtractive colours are combined, the combination produces black colour. This difference means there is a great diversity between the resulting print and the onscreen display. Additive colour projects the light from the monitor, and if more light is projected from a particular pixel, it will be closer to the pure light. In the case of printer inks, they will absorb light and reflects only the wavelengths of light that is linked with the colour of the ink.

The inks of the printer take away the non-essential wavelengths from the light that falls on the ink. The remaining light will return to the eye, giving the impression of a variety of colours. If you are combining even more colours, then more light will be absorbed by the ink and a lesser amount of light will get reflected to the eye, and that results in darker colour. Black ink produced by the CMYK colours is not the deep black. You must add black ink to get the best results for printing true black. To receive a stronger shade of a colour, you must add black in CMYK mode.

What about the lighter shade of colours? Because white ink cannot be created using CMYK colours, you need to work under the idea that you are printing colour on a white paper. As small dots of ink are used to print images the inks are used in lower percentage to receive lighter shades so that more white colour is visible among the dots. The values of CMYK colours are calculated using four different percentages. The values of each percentage should be between 0 and 100 so that the total percentage of the ink values can be up to 400%. However, when the total percentage does reach 400%, the ink takes more time to dry. And so, the total percentage of ink should not be more than 300% in CMYK mode.

Both of the colour modes have limitations. Images resulting using RGB mode cannot be converted smoothly into CMYK mode because of the brightness of the RGB colours. Similarly, CMYK colours can not be translated to RGB mode because the sharp look of RGB colours is missing in CMYK mode online. This is the reason why RGB colours are used in monitors and CMYK colours are used in printers.

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